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Roundup: 20 years after landmark treaty, many countries far from mine-free

A five yearly gathering this week noted some progress, but several countries lagging behind in clearance efforts.

A deminer in the west of Cambodia – one of seven countries that requested additional time to clear mine-contaminated areas this week in Oslo. Sean Sutton/MAG
A deminer in the west of Cambodia – one of seven countries that requested additional time to clear mine-contaminated areas this week in Oslo.

Hundreds of representatives from governments and NGOs, as well as landmine clearance advocates and survivors, gathered this week in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, for a conference held every five years to renew commitments to a mine-free world.

At the time the Mine Ban Treaty was signed in 1997 – two years before it went into effect – experts estimated there were as many as 110 million landmines either still in use or left over from conflict.

While global demining efforts have made progress, we are still far from the mine-free world envisioned in the 1990s. Twenty-five countries have fully demined, and 164 have signed the Mine Ban Treaty, agreeing not to purchase, manufacture, or use mines as weapons of war. But some 60 countries are still contaminated with mines, and many large countries such as the United States, India, and China have yet to sign the treaty.

According to the most recent report from the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, only the Myanmar government was found to be actively laying new mines in 2018.

But while governments may have agreed to cease landmine use, non-state actors are bound by no such agreement.

The Monitor found confirmed instances of mine use by non-state actors in Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen, and suspected instances in Cameroon, Colombia, Libya, Mali, the Philippines, Somalia, and Tunisia. Many of these mines are improvised explosive devices, and 2018 saw the highest number of casualties from IEDs to date.  

Even after a conflict has ended, unexploded mines can continue to maim and kill civilians for years after. The majority of mine casualties are civilians and more than half in 2018 were children.

The Review Conference of the States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, featuring more than 700 participants from over 100 states, wrapped up Friday with renewed pledges to a mine-free world by 2025.

The good news: Chile announced it was months away from finishing its clearance work and becoming mine-free. The bad news: seven countries – Argentina, Cambodia, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, and Yemen – requested additional time for their efforts.

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